We arrived in Rurutu at around 3pm in the afternoon. As the anchor was hitting the bottom several towns’ people began to appear until there was about twenty people who came to see this yacht anchor in their harbour. In later talking to one of them we found out that in the past six years we were only the fifth boat to visit their island. So we were a bit of celebrities! Everyone was anxious to talk to us and were quite friendly, welcoming and helpful.
Since it was so late in the afternoon and it was quite rough in the harbour it took us a couple of hours to get the anchor in the best place and blow up the dingy to go ashore. It had been recommended to us by John Niel whom had been here before to drop anchor off to the concrete jetty and tie up Mediterranean stile to the jetty. So initially we tried this with very poor results due to the large swell coming into the harbour. We abandoned this effort leaving poor Juan on the jetty so that Gordon and I could anchor. We needed to place the anchor as close to centre as possible because this harbour which is only meant to receive the supply vessel that comes every two weeks and a couple of small local fishing vessels is so small that when we were anchored with 30 metres of chain out we would swing within 15 meters of every wall making up this Hexagonal shaped harbour! The reason I say poor Juan is that by the time we anchored and started to blow up the dingy to enable us to go get him it began to pour with rain. So while Gordon and I huddled in the cockpit, Juan was trying to stay as dry as possible under the eve of a nearby building. Thank goodness for foul weather gear…. An hour and a half later in the dark we managed to pick up Juan and settle into the evening to relax.
Only a couple of thousand people live on the island which is 8 kilometres long by about 3.5 kilometres wide in three villages. There we a couple of small shops that provided a small number of items that could not be self-created as almost everyone on the island was self-sufficient in producing their own food and many other needs. Luckily even though after 16 days at sea our provisions were running low we still had enough for a 4 day stay in Rurutu and then a two day sail to Tahiti as stores had very little supplies. An example would be the entire vegetable section comprised of potatoes and onions… that was it!
In the morning while we were walking to the Gendarmarie (Mounted Police) to clear into French Polynesia, we were greeted by Hiemana who informed us that he was the local tourist person and managed a lodge about 4 kilometres north of the harbour and asked if there was anything he could do for us. We told him that the first things we needed, our reply was that after no shower for 16 days this was our highest priority! Followed by finding a place to buy food and a restaurant/bar to relax at this afternoon and connect to the internet. He laughed and told us that there were three very small shops in town but the range of food will be very limited and as far as the restaurant/bar his lodge was the only option and we could have a shower there. Hiemana then offered to come pick us up at 3:00pm and take us to his lodge so we didn’t have to walk.
The lodge was very nice and held up to about 30 people in 7 or 8 bungalows on the beach next to a small airport and there were currently about 12 people staying. This is the entirety of the tourism trade in Rurutu. We had a very relaxing afternoon and a beautiful meal where all of the guest ate together at one table so lots of conversation, stretching both our little French and their much better English. The 3:00pm pickup and around 9:00pm drop off back to the boat became the routine for the next three days.
Hiamana arranged two excursions for us over the next two days. The first of which was a tour of the local caves. We were told that this was a fairly easy walk that turned out to be rock climbing effort without ropes along a cliff with the waves breaking at the base. We started off with thongs on walking in the water then transitioned to our walking shoes as we went higher. The guide remained in thongs the entire way!! How they managed to climb on the very rough volcanic cliff side without a thong blow out I do not know! Anyway needless to say the excursion was very scenic, the caves were interesting and all and all a great day
The next day we were driven around the island by one of the ladies who had lived there all of her life and told the history and interesting things about the island. This took a few hours as even though it is a quite small island some of the roads were quite rough. One of the high lights of the trip was because of the self-proficiency of the inhabitants any fruit that was growing alongside of the road was free for the taking. So during the tour we gathered more than enough bananas, lemons. Oranges, Pompamous (a very sweet large grapefruit), chilies, pawpaw and coconuts!
On Tuesday the 19th we then said our goodbyes and raised anchor for a glorious sail to Tahiti!